Mirador Mine: Imminent Endangerment to Life and Watersheds
E-Tech has played multiple roles in Ecuador. Since 2010 we have worked for the most part on large-scale mining, as it was planned and then developed on indigenous territory, and have attempted to change the course of its development. We have provided assistance as an environmental/technical NGO and as visiting faculty at Ecuador’s Escuela Politecnica Nacional.
E-Tech has focused on the exploration and now the rapidly expanding development of the large-scale Mirador Ecuacorriente open pit copper mine, which is located in the highly biodiverse Cordillera del Condor region of the upper Amazon river basin. This is a mine that has been expanding from a proposed 30,000 metric tons per day (30 ktpd) of production in 2010 to 60 ktpd, and now to 140 ktpd, which is among the largest 7 or 8 mines globally. Based on old and limited information, without an environmental impact assessment, the expanded Tundayme tailings dam now in operation will be approximately 850 feet high in an area with high precipitation and seismicity, both of which increase the vulnerability of environmental and human safety impacts to hundreds of Shuar and Saraguro living along the river downstream of this dam. No EIA exists for the construction or management of the Tundayme tailings impoundment or dam, although the expansion has already begun. There is no public emergency response plan. Water quality threats abound, but we are most concerned about the potential imminent endangerment to the lives of those who have occupied this territory for many centuries and the impacts to the Zamora River at the mine site and the Santiago River that flows from the Zamora into Peru. A large-scale hydroelectric dam is also planned downstream of the mine on the Santiago River that could be destroyed by a tailings dam failure at the Mirador Mine.
Since 2011, and particularly from 2020 to the present, we have been evaluating potential imminent endangerment and environmental degradation related to the Mirador Mine at the request of Indigenous and regional leadership. The results of our research will feed into in a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Asemblea Nacional of Ecuador, and the Ecuadoran Constitutional Court. It will also benefit Ecuadorian regulators. The information we generate is meant to provide all Ecuadorian stakeholders with independent technical information about the mine.
To the Indigenous residents of this area the mine has resulted in their physical displacement and the degradation of the waters they rely on for their livelihoods.
Within the Cordillera del Condor region, we have worked on development of community environmental monitoring programs that incorporate traditional indigenous knowledge and “Western” environmental monitoring (using citizen science tools including biological monitoring and laboratory analysis). We seek to expand this work in the future. We intend to develop remote monitoring tools to produce data that can be shared on multiple websites including our own. We have also supported Shuar indigenous women agricultural and cultural preservation projects and assisted in COVID relief (as we have in Loreto, Peru) in coordination with the Defensoria del Pueblo.
Report to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos), 2022.
- Aug 28, 2022: The Potential for Imminent Endangerment to Human Life and the Environment from the Mirador Open Pit Copper Mine in Southeastern Ecuador
- Aug 28, 2022: El potencial de peligro inminente para la vida humana y el medio ambiente de la mina de cobre a cielo abierto Mirador en el sureste de Ecuador
On November 16 and 18, 2015, E-Tech International presented technical models of the impacts of a tailings dam failure downstream of the Chinese Ecuacorriente Mirador Mine in the Cordillera del Condor of Ecuador. A tailings failure would impact the Rio Santiago that enters Peru and subsequently the Maranon River, main tributary in the region to the Amazon. The studies by Dr. Steven Emerman were a component of seminars at the Universidad Tecnica de Loja in the Cordillera del Condor as well as the Escuela Politecnica Nacional in Quito. Recent tailings and other mine waste failures at the Polley Mine in British Columbia, Cananea Sonora, Silverton Colorado and Mina Gerais, Brasil have made such models as instruments to prevent disaster very important.
- Nov 13, 2015: Emerman Report Overview – English
- Nov 13, 2015: Emerman Report Overview – Español
- Nov 15, 2015: Emerman Report Mine Tailings Transport – Español
Evaluation of the proposed Mirador copper project Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and associated documents. 2011-2014:
- March 26, 2012: Resumen de Consideraciones Ambientales y Económicas Relacionadas con el Proyecto Mirador en la República de Ecuador. 26 March 2012. Spanish.
- March 26, 2012: Letter to the Contraloria indicating the willingness of E-Tech to assist technically and neutrally to address a project with major engineering and environmental problems
- March 2012: Evaluación de la estabilidad de las instalaciones para el manejo de relaves y estimación de los requerimientos de garantías financieras para El Proyecto Mirador. March 2012. Spanish. (combined with E-Tech overview)
- December 21, 2011: EIA Beneficio y Respuestas del Ministerio del Ambiente: Observaciones Generales de E-Tech International, 21 de Diciembre de 2011. Spanish.
- January 31, 2011: Comentarios sobre los EIAs de explotación y beneficio del Proyecto Mirador—versión Ingles con referencias de marco legal en español.
Trainings and Presentations
E-Tech has provided training to members of Ecuador’s ministry of environment, communities in El Pangui, and university professors in Quito. Here is an example of the material E-Tech uses in these presentations:
- August 23, 2011: Presentacion de E-Tech International: Mineria en Ecuador. 23 de Agosto de 2011. Spanish. Download PowerPoint (Spanish)
- Tundayme: a 10 años del primer proyecto minero a gran escala en Ecuador (Wambra Medio Comunitario)
Esmeraldas (informal gold mining with mercury processing)
Evaluation of the suitability of water for human consumption and the health of aquatic biota
- August 16, 2013: Evaluation of Water Quality Information and Potential Environmental Effects of Informal Gold Mining in Northern Esmeraldas Province, Ecuador. Spanish summary/English Report. 16 August 2013.
Chevron-Texaco Case (oil and gas development)
Evaluation of international operating practices and regulatory framework for oil & gas development
E-Tech International wrote multiple reports on environmental sampling, oilfield practices, regulatory requirements, and other issues in the Chevron Case. Due to the complexities of the highly controversial Chevron case, they do not currently appear on our website.